What are some of the biggest differences you recognize about yourself between now and when you first started college?
When I look at myself four years ago and compare that man to the man I am today, I can see one huge difference in the area of professionalism and maturity. Through many of the opportunities I have gained through Pi Kappa Phi, I have been able to grow into a young man who is much more confident and able to represent myself professionally to high-level administrators, in job interviews, and on a daily basis. Through the challenges I have faced as an executive council member over the past three years, I have learned how to handle conflict and confidential matters as both a friend and leader while gaining skills that I would not have gained otherwise. I will carry these skills with me for the rest of my life.
What have been your two or three most important or meaningful Pi Kappa Phi experiences?
The two most meaningful experiences I have had as a member of Pi Kappa Phi would be being selected as the recipient of the Howard H. Baker Leadership Award for 2014 and being selected to serve on our National Council. Throughout my four years as a brother of the fraternity, I worked hard to establish myself as a responsible leader and to better my chapter. Being selected for both the award and as the student representative are two experiences that have made me incredibly proud and experiences that I never dreamed would happen. I am truly honored to hold both, and humbled that I was selected. I hope to use these experiences to motivate younger members to continuously strive for the betterment of themselves and those around them, always keeping in mind to place others before self and lead their chapters and peers through their actions and not merely by word.
What was it like being asked to join the National Council as the student representative? Do you have any specific goals you hope to accomplish with the National Council during your tenure?
When I was asked to join the National Council, I was, simply put, ecstatic. I felt like a little kid who just saw his Christmas presents for the first time. I will never forget the phone conversation with Christian and Mark. After the excitement came time to get down to business, as I was told the first meeting was in less than two weeks. I was both nervous and excited because I knew that I was responsible for representing our entire undergrad population, but also because I knew it was the beginning of an unforgettable experience and a chance to make a difference in the fraternity.
During my tenure on the council, one of my main goals is to aid in bridging the gap between the National Headquarters and our fraternity's values and what is actually being taught and practiced by individual chapters across the nation. It always has been, and may always be, a struggle for approximately 180 different chapters to all remain consistent with their values, working towards the same goals. My goal as the student representative is to best represent the chapters across our nation to both the National Council and headquarters staff so that we can best serve our chapters and remain unified by more than just our letters, but by who we are as young men in word and deed. I believe that that is the job of the student representative to give the realistic perspective of the undergraduate student members, which many members are not as willing to share with "nationals."
Have you always viewed yourself as a leader? How has your definition of leadership changed over time?
In short, yes, I have always viewed myself as a leader from a very young age. As early as eight years old, I always worked to fill leadership positions, beginning as a captain on my club soccer team. At a very young age, my parents tried their best to install good leadership values in me. Even on teams that I was not selected to be the captain, my parents told me I was a leader. I have always had a certain charisma about me that makes people want to follow me. It just sort of always happened.
What I specifically remember was that I didn't always lead in the best ways. Sometimes, I would choose to lead in a negative way, such as being lazy at practices or giving up in a game when we were behind on the scoreboard. One phrase my parents always told me that has stuck with me and shaped how I view leadership is this: "You are a leader, like it or not. People will always follow you. It is who you are and how God made you. It is up to you to choose whether you will be a good leader, lead people in the right direction, and honor the gift God has given you, or be a bad leader, lead them in the wrong direction, and waste the gifts you have been given." This thought process has greatly shaped who I am and how I lead.
Over time, I have come to truly respect the power of good leadership. I believe that one of the most important qualities of a leader is someone who leads by example, not just in word, but also in deed. It is up to the leader to choose what type of leader they want to be. The ideal leader should be one who leads with humility and views themselves as a servant to those they lead. A leader is willing to do the least desirable tasks and work the hardest to inspire those around them to work hard as well. I respect leaders who do not believe in the phrase, "That is how we have always done it." A leader who seeks change is a leader who will bring change, through both failure and success, breeds excellence. A true leader is willing to stand up for what they believe in and fight for it. They are motivated to bring change in spite of any adversity they might face. Doing the right thing is not always the easy thing and often feels like you are swimming upstream. But those that truly desire to lead and want what is best for those they serve, are also willing to make the unpopular decisions and put the well being of the chapter above their personal feelings and well being.
Do you have any advice for new members just beginning their Pi Kappa Phi experience?
My advice for new members is the same I have for every Associate Member of our chapter. My desire is to see them "get it." At the beginning of the semester, they never understand what "it" is. Usually they start to figure "it" throughout their member education.
I explain what I mean by "get it" like this. My desire is for each and every member is to learn the importance of sacrifice and putting others before themselves. In Pi Kappa Phi, and just as importantly in life, careers, marriages, families, and their future as a whole, they will get where they want to be through sacrifice. You must be willing to sacrifice for what you love. "Anything worth having in life is rarely easy." When they "get it," they begin to understand that in order to be a leader in life, and to succeed as a man, you must be willing to put others first.
Additionally, don't be afraid of failure. Be who you are and stand up for what you believe is right. Be willing to stand out in a crowd. Do not be afraid of adversity or failure; but rather, take every chance to learn from mistakes. The fraternity is not about a four year experience; it is about making you a better man for the future, while helping other brothers succeed. Do not fear failure, but use it as a chance to learn. As a leader, and as a man, you can never truly know what is means to succeed until you learn what it means to fail.